Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

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The sequential nature of actual events is not illuminated with lengthy precision by the powers of prescience except under the most extraordinary circumstances. The oracle grasps incidents cut out of the historic chain. Eternity moves. It inflicts itself upon the oracle and the supplicant alike. Let Muad’dib’s subjects doubt his majesty and his oracular visions. Let them deny his powers. Let them never doubt Eternity. -The Dune Gospels

Hayt watched Alia emerge from her temple and cross the plaza. Her guard was bunched close, fierce expressions on their faces to mask the lines molded by good living and complacency. A heliograph of ‘thopter wings flashed in the bright afternoon sun above the temple, part of the Royal Guard with Muad’dib’s fist-symbol on its fuselage. Hayt returned his gaze to Alia. She looked out of place here in the city, he thought. Her proper setting was the desert — open, untrammeled space. An odd thing about her came back to him as he watched her approach: Alia appeared thoughtful only when she smiled. It was a trick of the eyes, he decided, recalling a cameo memory of her as she’d appeared at the reception for the Guild Ambassador: haughty against a background of music and brittle conversation among extravagant gowns and uniforms. And Alia had been wearing white, dazzling, a bright garment of chastity. He had looked down upon her from a window as she crossed an inner garden with its formal pond, its fluting fountains, fronds of pampas grass and a white belvedere. Entirely wrong . . . all wrong. She belonged in the desert. Hayt drew in a ragged breath. Alia had moved out of his view then as she did now. He waited, clenching and unclenching his fists. The interview with Bijaz had left him uneasy. He heard Alia’s entourage pass outside the room where he waited. She went into the Family quarters. Now he tried to focus on the thing about her which troubled him. The way she’d walked across the plaza? Yes. She’d moved like a hunted creature fleeing some predator. He stepped out onto the connecting balcony, walked along it behind the plasmeld sunscreen, stopped while still in concealing shadows. Alia stood at the balustrade overlooking her temple. He looked where she was looking — out over the city. He saw rectangles, blocks of color, creeping movements of life and sound. Structures gleamed, shimmered. Heat patterns spiraled off the rooftops. There was a boy across the way bouncing a ball in a cul-de-sac formed by a buttressed massif at a corner of the temple. Back and forth the ball went. Alia, too, watched the ball. She felt a compelling identity with that ball — back and forth . . . back and forth. She sensed herself bouncing through corridors of Time. The potion of melange she’d drained just before leaving the temple was the largest she’d ever attempted — a massive overdose. Even before beginning to take effect, it had terrified her. Why did I do it? she asked herself. “One made a choice between dangers.” Was that it? This was the way to penetrate the fog spread over the future by that damnable Dune Tarot. A barrier existed. It must be breached. She had acted out of a necessity to see where it was her brother walked with his eyeless stride. The familiar melange fugue state began creeping into her awareness. She took a deep breath, experienced a brittle form of calm, poised and selfless. Possession of second sight has a tendency to make one a dangerous fatalist, she thought. Unfortunately, there existed no abstract leverage, no calculus of prescience. Visions of the future could not be manipulated as formulas. One had to enter them, risking life and sanity. A figure moved from the harsh shadows of the adjoining balcony. The ghola! In her heightened awareness, Alia saw him with intense clarity — the dark, lively features dominated by those glistening metal eyes. He was a union of terrifying opposites, something put together in a shocking linear way. He was shadow and blazing light, a product of the process which had revived his dead flesh . . . and of something intensely pure . . . innocent. He was innocence under siege! “Have you been there all along, Duncan?” she asked. “So I’m to be Duncan,” he said. “Why?” “Don’t question me,” she said. And she thought, looking at him, that the Tleilaxu had left no corner of their ghola unfinished. “Only gods can safely risk perfection,” she said. “It’s a dangerous thing for a man.” “Duncan died,” he said, wishing she would not call him that. “I am Hayt.” She studied his artificial eyes, wondering what they saw. Observed closely, they betrayed tiny black pockmarks, little wells of darkness in the glittering metal. Facets! The universe shimmered around her and lurched. She steadied herself with a hand on the sun-warmed surface of the balustrade. Ahhh, the melange moved swiftly. “Are you ill?” Hayt asked. He moved closer, the steely eyes opened wide, staring. Who spoke? she wondered. Was it Duncan Idaho? Was it the mentat-ghola or the Zensunni philosopher? Or was it a Tleilaxu pawn more dangerous than any Guild Steersman? Her brother knew. Again, she looked at the ghola. There was something inactive about him now, a latent something. He was saturated with waiting and with powers beyond their common life. “Out of my mother, I am like the Bene Gesserit,” she said. “Do you know that?” “I know it.” “I use their powers, think as they think. Part of me knows the sacred urgency of the breeding program . . . and its products.” She blinked, feeling part of her awareness begin to move freely in Time. “It’s said that the Bene Gesserit never let go,” he said. And he watched her closely, noting how white her knuckles were where she gripped the edge of the balcony. “Have I stumbled?” she asked. He marked how deeply she breathed, with tension in every movement, the glazed appearance of her eyes. “When you stumble,” he said, “you may regain your balance by jumping beyond the thing that tripped you.” “The Bene Gesserit stumbled,” she said. “Now they wish to regain their balance by leaping beyond my brother. They want Chani’s baby . . . or mine.” “Are you with child?” She struggled to fix herself in a timespace relationship to this question. With child? When? Where? “I see . . . my child,” she whispered. She moved away from the balcony’s edge, turned her head to look at the ghola. He had a face of salt, bitter eyes — two circles of glistening lead . . . and, as he turned away from the light to follow her movement, blue shadows. “What . . . do you see with such eyes?” she whispered. “What other eyes see,” he said. His words rang in her ears, stretching her awareness. She felt that she reached across the universe — such a stretching . . . out . . . out. She lay intertwined with all Time. “You’ve taken the spice, a large dose,” he said. “Why can’t I see him?” she muttered. The womb of all creation held her captive. “Tell me, Duncan, why I cannot see him.” “Who can’t you see?” “I cannot see the father of my children. I’m lost in a Tarot fog. Help me.” Mentat logic offered its prime computation, and he said: “The Bene Gesserit want a mating between you and your brother. It would lock the genetic . . . ” A wail escaped her. “The egg in the flesh,” she gasped. A sensation of chill swept over her, followed by intense heat. The unseen mate of her darkest dreams! Flesh of her flesh that the oracle could not reveal — would it come to that? “Have you risked a dangerous dose of the spice?” he asked. Something within him fought to express the utmost terror at the thought that an Atreides woman might die, that Paul might face him with the knowledge that a female of the royal family had . . . gone. “You don’t know what it’s like to hunt the future,” she said. “Sometimes I glimpse myself . . . but I get in my own way. I cannot see through myself.” She lowered her head, shook it from side to side. “How much of the spice did you take?” he asked. “Nature abhors prescience,” she said, raising her head. “Did you know that, Duncan?” He spoke softly, reasonably, as to a small child: “Tell me how much of the spice you took.” He took hold of her shoulder with his left hand. “Words are such gross machinery, so primitive and ambiguous,” she said. She pulled away from his hand. “You must tell me,” he said. “Look at the Shield Wall,” she commanded, pointing. She sent her gaze along her own outstretched hand, trembled as the landscape crumbled in an overwhelming vision — a sandcastle destroyed by invisible waves. She averted her eyes, was transfixed by the appearance of the ghola’s face. His features crawled, became aged, then young . . . aged . . . young. He was life itself, assertive, endless . . . She turned to flee, but he grabbed her left wrist. “I am going to summon a doctor,” he said. “No! You must let me have the vision! I have to know!” “You are going inside now,” he said. She stared down at his hand. Where their flesh touched, she felt an electric presence that both lured and frightened her. She jerked free, gasped: “You can’t hold the whirlwind!” “You must have medical help!” he snapped. “Don’t you understand?” she demanded. “My vision’s incomplete, just fragments. It flickers and jumps. I have to remember the future. Can’t you see that?” “What is the future if you die?” he asked, forcing her gently into the Family chambers. “Words . . . words,” she muttered. “I can’t explain it. One thing is the occasion of another thing, but there’s no cause . . . no effect. We can’t leave the universe as it was. Try as we may, there’s a gap.” “Stretch out here,” he commanded. He is so dense! she thought. Cool shadows enveloped her. She felt her own muscles crawling like worms — a firm bed that she knew to be insubstantial. Only space was permanent. Nothing else had substance. The bed flowed with many bodies, all of them her own. Time became a multiple sensation, overloaded. It presented no single reaction for her to abstract. It was Time. It moved. The whole universe slipped backward, forward, sideways. “It has no thing-aspect,” she explained. “You can’t get under it or around it. There’s no place to get leverage.” There came a fluttering of people all around her. Many someones held her left hand. She looked at her own moving flesh, followed a twining arm out to a fluid mask of face: Duncan Idaho! His eyes were . . . wrong, but it was Duncan — child-man-adolescent-child-man-adolescent . . . Every line of his features betrayed concern for her. “Duncan, don’t be afraid,” she whispered. He squeezed her hand, nodded. “Be still,” he said. And he thought: She must not die! She must not! No Atreides woman can die! He shook his head sharply. Such thoughts defied mentat logic. Death was a necessity that life might continue. The ghola loves me, Alia thought. The thought became bedrock to which she might cling. He was a familiar face with a solid room behind him. She recognized one of the bedrooms in Paul’s suite. A fixed, immutable person did something with a tube in her throat. She fought against retching. “We got her in time,” a voice said, and she recognized the tones of a Family medic. “You should’ve called me sooner.” There was suspicion in the medic’s voice. She felt the tube slide out of her throat — a snake, a shimmering cord. “The slapshot will make her sleep,” the medic said. “I’ll send one of her attendants to –” “I will stay with her,” the ghola said. “That is not seemly!” the medic snapped. “Stay . . . Duncan,” Alia whispered. He stroked her hand to tell her he’d heard. “M’Lady,” the medic said, “it’d be better if . . .” “You do not tell me what is best,” she rasped. Her throat ached with each syllable. “M’Lady,” the medic said, voice accusing, “you know the dangers of consuming too much melange. I can only assume someone gave it to you without –” “You are a fool,” she rasped. “Would you deny me my visions? I knew what I took and why.” She put a hand to her throat. “Leave us. At once!” The medic pulled out of her field of vision, said: “I will send word to your brother.” She felt him leave, turned her attention to the ghola. The vision lay clearly in her awareness now, a culture medium in which the present grew outward. She sensed the ghola move in that play of Time, no longer cryptic, fixed now against a recognizable background. He is the crucible, she thought. He is danger and salvation. And she shuddered, knowing she saw the vision of her brother had seen. Unwanted tears burned her eyes. She shook her head sharply. No tears! They wasted moisture and, worse, distracted the harsh flow of vision. Paul must be stopped! Once, just once, she had bridged Time to place her voice where he would pass. But stress and mutability would not permit that here. The web of Time passed through her brother now like rays of light through a lens. He stood at the focus and he knew it. He had gathered all the lines to himself and would not permit them to escape or change. “Why?” she muttered. “Is it hate? Does he strike out at Time itself because it hurt him? Is that it . . . hate?” Thinking he heard her speak his name, the ghola said: “M’Lady?” “If I could only burn this thing out of me!” she cried. “I didn’t want to be different.” “Please, Alia,” he murmured. “Let yourself sleep.” “I wanted to be able to laugh,” she whispered. Tears slid down her cheeks. “But I’m sister to an Emperor who’s worshipped as a god. People fear me. I never wanted to be feared.” He wiped the tears from her face. “I don’t want to be part of history,” she whispered. “I just want to be loved . . . and to love.” “You are loved,” he said. “Ahhh, loyal, loyal Duncan,” she said. “Please, don’t call me that,” he pleaded. “But you are,” she said. “And loyalty is a valued commodity. It can be sold . . . not bought, but sold.” “I don’t like your cynicism,” he said. “Damn your logic! It’s true!” “Sleep,” he said. “Do you love me, Duncan?” she asked. “Yes.” “Is that one of those lies,” she asked, “one of the lies that are easier to believe than the truth? Why am I afraid to believe you?” “You fear my differences as you fear your own.” “Be a man, not a mentat!” she snarled. “I am a mentat and a man.” “Will you make me your woman, then?” “I will do what love demands.” “And loyalty?” “And loyalty.” “That’s where you’re dangerous,” she said. Her words disturbed him. No sign of the disturbance arose to his face, no muscle trembled — but she knew it. Vision-memory exposed the disturbance. She felt she had missed part of the vision, though, that she should remember something else from the future. There existed another perception which did not go precisely by the senses, a thing which fell into her head from nowhere the way prescience did. It lay in the Time shadows — infinitely painful. Emotion! That was it — emotion! It had appeared in the vision, not directly, but as a product from which she could infer what lay behind. She had been possessed by emotion — a single constriction made up of fear, grief and love. They lay there in the vision, all collected into a single epidemic body, overpowering and primordial. “Duncan, don’t let me go,” she whispered. “Sleep,” he said. “Don’t fight it.” “I must . . . I must. He’s the bait in his own trap. He’s the servant of power and terror. Violence . . . deification is a prison enclosing him. He’ll lose . . . everything. It’ll tear him apart.” “You speak of Paul?” “They drive him to destroy himself,” she gasped, arching her back. “Too much weight, too much grief. They seduce him away from love.” She sank back to the bed. “They’re creating a universe where he won’t permit himself to live.” “Who is doing this?” “He is! Ohhh, you’re so dense. He’s part of the pattern. And it’s too late . . . too late . . . too late . . .” As she spoke, she felt her awareness descend, layer by layer. It came to rest directly behind her navel. Body and mind separated and merged in a storehouse of relic visions — moving, moving . . . She heard a fetal heartbeat, a child of the future. The melange still possessed her, then, setting her adrift in Time. She knew she had tasted the life of a child not yet conceived. One thing certain about this child — it would suffer the same awakening she had suffered. It would be an aware, thinking entity before birth.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank